Series of exposes on systematic cheating at the Sochi Olympics were first met angrily by Moscow, but now they're "very sorry"
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Series of exposes on systematic cheating at the Sochi Olympics were first met angrily by Moscow, but now they're "very sorry"
We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner.
Il ne faut pas se mentir! La portée des nouvelles sanctions à l'encontre de la Russie adoptées par Bruxelles, Washington et Berne est toute relative. Elles relèvent davantage de la communication stratégique (StratCom) pour Bruxelles et Washington, et, pour Berne, d'une stratégie de hedging pour préserver ses intérêts nationaux. Pour l'illustrer, attardons-nous sur le lancement des forages pétroliers dans l'Arctique russe, samedi dernier, sous le patronage de Vladimir Poutine. ...
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Le génial coup du cavalier de Poutine a fait gagner à la Russie 20 milliards de dollars en quelques jours La Russie a mis à profit la crise de Crimée pour réaliser un coup en bourse fumant : en quelques jours, le pays a gagné 20 milliards de...
'The sixteen individuals being sanctioned as Russian government officials are: Viktor Ozerov, Vladimir Dzhabarov, Evgeni Bushmin, Nikolai Ryzhkov, Sergei Zheleznyak, Sergei Mironov, Aleksandr Totoonov, Oleg Panteleev, Sergey Naryshkin, Victor Ivanov, Igor Sergun, Sergei Ivanov, Alexei Gromov, Andrei Fursenko, Vladimir Yakunin, and Vladimir Kozhin
The UN resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea by Russia which was voted on Thursday at the general assembly showed Latin America (and Mercosur) divided on the issue. The non binding resolution sponsored by Costa Rica and the western powers received 100 votes, with 11 against and 58 abstentions.
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Vladimir Putin’s play to wrest control of Ukraine is accentuating divisions in the European Union over how to balance climate and energy policies, driving a wedge between Germany and its eastern neighbor Poland.
By moving forces into the Crimea region, the Russian president caused a jump in natural gas prices from the U.K. to Germany, highlighting Europe’s dependence on gas piped through Ukrainian territory.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has turned on Germany, saying that its appetite for Russian gas as it shifts to clean energy is “a threat to Europe’s security and sovereignty.”
The German-Polish split underscores a broader dilemma over the direction of Europe’s $13 trillion economy and the energy model that powers it. Merkel is focused on cutting pollution and closing German nuclear reactors, consuming more Russian gas in the process. Tusk, more concerned with energy security, is pushing coal and atomic power, and yesterday backed a law to speed up hydraulic fracking to get at domestic hydrocarbons.
“Germany and Poland in many ways represent a fault line when it comes to defining Europe’s future energy mix,” William Pearson, London-based director for global energy and natural resources at the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, said in a March 7 telephone interview. Both, he said, “enjoy the support” of other EU nations.
The divergence has implications for businesses as well as consumers on both sides of the Oder-Neisse Line, the post-World War II boundary first proposed by the Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference in 1945 and which still forms the present-day border between Poland and Germany.
Tusk is buoyed by Poland’s shale gas reserves, ranked as Europe’s biggest by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It estimates that Poland has technically recoverable shale-gas resources of 148 trillion cubic feet, or about as much as a quarter of the U.S. level.
Polish authorities have granted about 100 licenses to foreign and domestic companies to drill for unconventional gas and have sought to revive investments from companies including Marathon Oil Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp.
About 20 kilometers east of the border in the Polish town of Lubsko, Baltic Ceramics SA Chief Executive Officer Piotr Wozniak plans to begin building a $20 million factory this year to supply the nascent fracking industry. He is betting that Europe will try to emulate the shale-gas boom that has brought the U.S. close to energy-independence.
Across the river in Germany, Merkel is closing reactors by 2022 as she pursues the biggest transition to renewable energy of any developed country in history. With her Social Democratic Party coalition partner opposed to fracking, Merkel’s government has imposed a moratorium on new drilling using the technology.
Alwin Guedesen, a retired former communications engineer, illustrates the German government’s dilemma. Guedesen, 67, who in the 1980s worked on a NATO project to detect Warsaw Pact tank movements via seismic amplitudes, now spends much of his time trying to stop a different encroachment: drilling for gas near his home in the Weser valley of Lower Saxony.
The practice may contaminate groundwater and cause earthquakes, Guedesen said. He says the risks connected with the technology mean that pushing fracking in Europe isn’t the right strategy to reduce dependence on Russia.
That makes little sense to Wozniak, whose plant will produce the ceramic material that props open rocks cracked in the fracking process so that gas can flow into the well more quickly.
“Europe has to make strategic choices about its future,” Wozniak said in a March 5 telephone interview. “The Ukrainian lesson should help tip the balance towards energy security rather than environmental issues.”
Poland plans to build its first nuclear power plant by the end of 2024. It would have a capacity of at least 1,000 megawatts, or enough for about 800,000 homes in the U.S. It intends to have 3,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity by 2030 and to double that level by 2035.
As much as 2,800 megawatts of new coal capacity is being built and at least 1,900 megawatts being developed as PGE SA, the country’s largest utility, and its competitors seek to replace older plants fired by lignite and hard coal.
Tusk’s government, which depends on Russia for about two-thirds of Poland’s gas, plans to diversify its imports of the fuel in the next few years. Tusk said the EU and Germany should do the same. About 35 percent of German oil and gas imports come from Russia.
Taking aim at the EU’s current climate and energy policies, Tusk said this week that he’d discuss with Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to Warsaw today how to prevent Germany’s dependence on Russian gas imports “from paralyzing Europe when it needs decisive action.”
One route would be for the EU to consider collective purchases of gas to increase its leverage in talks with Russia, he told reporters. Merkel said the companies had to be on board to build an internal European market for energy.
“It’s not the German government that buys gas,” Merkel said. “It’s EON, it’s RWE, it’s BASF.”
Tusk’s hand is strengthened by rising gas prices since Russian troops took control of Crimea over the weekend of March 1-2. Front-month gas in the U.K., a European benchmark, has gained 3.5 percent since then. The contract jumped 10 percent on March 3, its biggest one-day gain since September 2011, on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange.
While Poland strives above all for energy security, Merkel’s government is also seeking to lower prices for consumers. German private households pay the second-highest power prices in the EU behind Denmark, according to Eurostat data. Germans pay an average 0.29 euros a kilowatt-hour, almost double the 0.15 euros/kWh Polish households must pay.
Tusk’s Cabinet approved a law yesterday aimed at speeding up drilling for shale gas, forecasting about 30 new wells drilled and the country’s first commercial well coming onstream this year.
“Shale gas is probably one of the beneficiaries of the Russian-Ukrainian dispute,” said Pearson of the Eurasia Group. “I’m confident that shale will be a long-term factor in the fuel mix in Europe.”
Germany and Poland have clashed over energy before. In 2006, Radoslaw Sikorski, then Poland’s defense minister who is now foreign minister, compared a planned natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea circumventing Polish territory with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that carved up Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union before World War II.
Nord Stream, a joint venture between German companies BASF AG and EON SE with Russia’s OAO Gazprom chaired by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, was completed in 2011. Russia in December 2012 began building the $20 billion South Stream pipeline to send gas to central Europe across the Black Sea and the Balkans -- a project it said will improve EU energy security since it bypasses Ukraine, where price disputes have disrupted exports in recent years.
“Supporting the construction of the Nord Stream pipelines may have given Germans a false sense of energy security,” said Keith Smith at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based research group focused on energy policy. “The dangerous situation in Ukraine may, however, cause a re-think in German energy policies.”
Ukraine and Europe’s future climate and energy framework will be the focus of the March 20-21 EU summit in Brussels, European Commission President Jose Barroso told members of the European Parliament today in Strasbourg, France.
“In the light of the crisis in Ukraine, no one will need to be reminded of the costs and dangers of Europe’s remaining energy dependence,” Barroso said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Stefan Nicola in Berlin at
; Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at
March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russian companies have made $180 billion in deals globally in the past two years, providing steady profits to London bankers, lawyers, and image crafters as the city has become a hub for such transactions. Sanctions being imposed by the U.S. and European Union threaten that business.
The potential fallout highlights the web of connections linking Russia to the global financial system. Since many large Russian companies are controlled by the state or by billionaires with close ties to President Vladimir Putin, even narrowly targeted sanctions could hurt their global operations.
A reminder of the stakes emerged on March 16, when L1 Energy, a London-based investment vehicle backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, agreed to buy Dea, the oil and gas unit of Germany’s RWE AG, for $7.1 billion -- the biggest Russia-related deal this year.
“There’s a huge amount of business, both industrial and financial, in both directions between the West and Russia,” said Dominic Sanders, a partner in Moscow at law firm Linklaters. “The further the sanctions and retaliation go, the greater the pain.”
In a speech to lawmakers today, Putin endorsed the annexation by Russia of Ukraine’s Crimea region after a referendum Western leaders condemned as illegitimate. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called the move a “land grab” that will be met with united global opposition.
While wealthy Russians have fanned out across Europe, with businesses incorporated in Luxembourg and Cyprus and homes in Switzerland and the south of France, their impact has been most keenly felt in the British capital. Advisory professionals in the city, dubbed “Londongrad” in a 2010 book by journalists Mark Hollingsworth and Stuart Lansley, have been instrumental in Russian deals.
Merger and acquisition activity involving Russian companies has totaled about $181 billion in the last two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The largest transactions have been in energy, led by the $55 billion reorganization of oil venture TNK-BP in 2012, followed by this week’s Dea sale.
RWE accelerated the sale to Fridman because of concerns about pending sanctions, according to a person familiar with the matter. The German utility spoke to the government in Berlin before reaching a deal to ensure that the sale would not be blocked, the person said. An RWE spokeswoman said the timing was a coincidence.
Meanwhile, initial public offerings by Russian companies such as mobile operator OAO MegaFon and fertilizer producer OAO Phosagro have accounted for about 13 percent of the $63 billion raised in London in the last five years, Bloomberg data show.
The instability spawned by the Ukraine crisis is beginning to dent that. Billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov’s children-goods retailer Detsky Mir Group is postponing a planned London share sale because of tensions over Crimea, according to people familiar with the matter. The company declined to comment.
German retailer Metro AG today said it would delay the IPO of its Russian Cash & Carry business due to market turmoil. And shares in Lenta Ltd., Russia’s second-biggest hypermarket chain, have dropped 16 percent since its London trading debut on Feb. 28. Lenta, whose owners include U.S. fund TPG Capital, raised $952 million, which valued the company at $4.3 billion.
Russian businesspeople, for whom the prospect of asset freezes is a “significant irritant,” are getting ready for a new way of managing their affairs, said Jonathan Fisher, a barrister at London’s Devereux Chambers.
“The shrewdest would have already moved some money out of the U.K. in anticipation of the sanctions,” Fisher said.
The high-water mark of Russian dealmaking came in 2012, when London bankers and lawyers shepherded the TNK-BP transaction. That deal included a $28 billion sale of shares by AAR, a consortium of Russian businessmen, and left BP Plc with a 20 percent stake in state-controlled OAO Rosneft, worth about $13 billion.
Rosneft’s chief executive officer, Igor Sechin, may be among officials eventually targeted by an EU travel ban, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported March 15. Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontiev called any discussion of sanctions “hypothetical.” In an e-mail, he wrote that “even if this kind of restriction on entry is introduced, it will be a bigger blow to the Western partners’ interests than to the Russians’.”
The TNK-BP deal featured a who’s who of London advisers from firms including Barclays Plc, Rothschild, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup Inc. Fridman used profits from selling his stake in TNK-BP to create L1, part of a Luxembourg-domiciled holding company that also holds investments in mobile carriers VimpelCom Ltd. and Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS.
The impact of sanctions will depend on how they are structured and implemented. An EU official yesterday said the first round includes visa restrictions and asset freezes on 21 individuals with ties to the Russian government. Those measures are the bottom end of an escalating scale that could culminate in a trade embargo and severing links between Russian companies and the world financial system -- like the sanctions used to punish Iran for its nuclear program.
Some British allies have questioned the benefits of London’s status as the hub for Russian deals. Arizona Senator John McCain said the U.K. ties of many wealthy Russians have made Prime Minister David Cameron reluctant to punish Russia, the Financial Times reported March 11.
U.K. regulators had already expressed discomfort with some aspects of London’s status as the preferred destination for capital from Russia and other emerging economies. The London Stock Exchange last year introduced new rules designed to make it harder for foreign companies predominantly owned by a single shareholder to list in Britain.
The rules, which increased the influence of independent directors and made it harder for controlling investors to direct day-to-day operations, were greeted with caution by some London lawyers and bankers, who worried they could drive business elsewhere. Rosneft, state-controlled gas export monopoly OAO Gazprom, and steelmaker OAO Severstal all have London listings.
The potential of being locked out of London by sanctions is a real threat to Russian businesses, said Sergei Ostrovsky, a partner at law firm Ashurst LLP in London.
“In the long run,” he said, “there are not many alternatives to the City of London for Russians to get all the financial services they need.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Campbell in London at
; Morgane Lapeyre in London at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at
; Jacqueline Simmons in Paris at